Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Trailer To Rise Of The Guardians Illustrates A Troubling Lack Of Sensitivity To Abuse Victims.

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The Basics: For the world we live in today, the trailer for Rise Of The Guardians is more upsetting than it is enticing and it should be pulled by the distributors.

Because I keep getting comments on this that seem to be missing the sophistication of the argument: the trailer to "Rise Of The Guardians" explicitly has Santa declaring that he and the other mythical characters will give up their lives to protect children. It is not the simple presence of the characters in the film (and trailer) that makes the argument, it is the basic logic that if the characters will give up their lives to protect children and children are abused, then those characters have already given up their lives.

Usually, when I see a trailer for an upcoming movie, my reaction is disappointment. Sure, the trailer to The Hobbit got me excited . . . because it does not truly show anything (and I am still impressed that there have been no leaked images of Smaug yet!). Most trailers for forthcoming movies are the opposite; they show way too much and ruin the experience of going to the movies. But it is rare that I can say that a film’s trailer is offensive. And yet, the movie trailer for Rise Of The Guardians is offensive.

And it is stupid.

To be clear, I do not mean that the trailer to Rise Of The Guardians makes the movie look stupid, I am saying that the team that assembled the trailer and worked on the voiceover was made up of people with a moronic disassociation with the world as it actually is today and they ought to be fired. In case you have not seen the trailer, the premise of Rise Of The Guardians appears to be a team-up between the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, Sandman, and Santa Claus. The quartet is out to save the world from a maniac in the forthcoming animated film. That is all fine.

What’s not is how the narrator in the trailer declares that their powers are greater than anyone can imagine. That assertion is followed by the problematic statement, “It is our job to protect the children of the world.” That is followed up with “For as long as they believe in us, we will guard them with our lives.” One need not go any further in the trailer to understand just what a colossal mistake the folks at DreamWorks have made.

DreamWorks just killed Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and other childhood heroes for millions of children. According to the Department of Health And Human Services, in 2010 there were over three million unique individuals who were focused on in reports of abuse and maltreatment. Granted that some of those reports did not pan out to verified abuse and that not all abuse was reported, but three million abused children a year in the United States seems to be the “going rate.” And for those three million children (at least the ones who have seen the trailer for Rise Of The Guardians), Santa Claus is now dead.

The logic is, appropriately enough, so simple that a child can follow it. In fact, it is for that reason that DreamWorks should be called on the carpet. An abused child wants desperately for the abuse to stop, hears that Santa Claus will save him or her, and the abuse continues, therefore, Santa Claus is dead. After all, Santa himself said that he would protect her with his life! No protection, ergo Santa Claus is dead. This is a logical minefield for DreamWorks’s promotions department, too. Because the counter-argument to this is equally simple: either the abused child did not believe hard enough or they were not worthy of the protection of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and/or the Sandman. The thing is, this is exactly how children – especially those living in a deficit of hope – think and it is irresponsible of DreamWorks Animation to not consider that before creating and releasing the trailer.

Victims of child abuse often feel like they are at fault for the abuse they receive. For the 63,527 child victims of sexual abuse in the United States in 2010, DreamWorks is now saying those victims either are at fault or that the symbols of their hope for a better life are dead.

Way to go DreamWorks! This is not a small problem and it is one that ought to be taken seriously. DreamWorks created a piece of work – in the trailer for Rise Of The Guardians - that completely neglects the world as it actually is. The world has become cold and dark and scary for children in many ways, in many very real ways. DreamWorks Animation, which produced Rise Of The Guardians, might want to claim ignorance on some level as to the level of irresponsibility of the assertions in the trailer, but the parent company, DreamWorks, is well versed in creating films that capture the horrors inflicted upon children. After all, DreamWorks produced the cinematic rendition of The Lovely Bones and explorations of mental illness like The Soloist and A Beautiful Mind. In other words, DreamWorks should have known better.

There’s no real easy fix to this sort of traumatic p.r. blunder, either. DreamWorks can’t really do screenings of Rise Of The Guardians for abuse victims (“Gee, Dad, could you stop hitting me long enough to take me to this movie that the studio is screening for people like me who get hit?”) and they are unlikely to actually pull the movie from the November release slate.

At the very least, DreamWorks Animation should immediately apologize to victims of abuse and pull that trailer and retool the trailer (and, if needed, the film) to reflect the truths that:
1. No child deserves to be abused and their hope for a better life where the abuse stops is not in vain,
2. No matter how appealing the thought, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, et al. are not going to save the children of the world.

It is one thing for an impoverished child to lose faith in Santa Claus when they receive no presents on Christmas morning; it is an entirely different thing for a little girl who is being molested to come to believe that she has no hope for it being stopped because the Santa she saw at the movies, the one who vowed to protect her with her life, did not come to her rescue. DreamWorks needs to apologize and fix this.

For other social commentary projects, please check out:
How Yellow Journalism Is Benefitting Pinterest
Why L/G/B/T Folks Should Loathe Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”
The Best Picture Oscar Project!

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© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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